Convenient Cinderella Bride. Joss Wood

Читать онлайн.
Название Convenient Cinderella Bride
Автор произведения Joss Wood
Жанр Современные любовные романы
Издательство Современные любовные романы
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9781474061384

Скачать книгу

mist in front of his eyes. He hastily bit back the words over my dead body.

      “He is a Halstead, Jonas. He says he’s bored, that it’s time for him to come back and take his place as the next Halstead to run our company.”

      But Lane stole from the company to support his gambling habit! The words were on the tip of Jonas’s tongue but he couldn’t voice them. Who was he protecting by keeping Lane’s secret? Jack? His father? Himself?

      “He walked away, Jack.” It was all he could say in protest.

      “He’s still a talented businessman. And my son.”

      “And all the work I’ve done in the years since he left has meant nothing? You’d do this without my consent?” Jonas saw the answer on Jack’s face and shook his head. “You’re a piece of work.”

      Jack just shrugged. “My first priority will always be what I think is best for Halstead.”

      Of course it was, God forbid that he put his grandson’s wishes before his company. “You have done a reasonable job with the company,” Jack continued, “but what, or who, comes after you? In your twenties, you dated extensively and I wasn’t worried. I believed you needed time to sow your wild oats. But you’re about to turn thirty-five, you’ve never brought a girl home to meet me and I’m concerned you will never settle down.”

      “You’ve been single for more than fifty years, so I think it’s a bit hypocritical for you to judge my lifestyle,” Jonas pointed out.

      “I was married. I produced a Halstead heir and Lane did the same. You have not. You should be married. You should have had a child or two by now.”

      “These days, people are marrying and having children later in life, Jack!”

      Jack glared at him. “I want to see you married. I want to see your child. I want to be assured that the Halstead fortune will not pass out of our bloodline.”

      “I’m surprised you didn’t demand that I produce a child in three months, as well,” Jonas snapped.

      “I’m not that demanding. That being said, if you marry, then there’s a good chance children will come from the union,” Jack said, stubbornness in every word he spoke. “Eventually. And I know you well enough to know that you’d hate, as much as I do, the idea of Halstead money, generations of effort and hard work, benefiting someone not of our bloodline.”

      Bloodline? Jack sounded like a medieval lord talking about his estates. “This isn’t sixteenth century England, Jack. And I do not appreciate you meddling in my private life!”

      “Pffft! Arranged marriages have worked for hundreds of years before love clouded the issue. It’s simple, Jonas. Marry and I will give you Halstead. Do not and deal with your father.”

      Jonas muttered a low curse. Jack knew exactly what buttons to push; he knew Jonas would do anything to keep his father out of the company and that he wanted complete control of Halstead & Sons.

      But there was a price to that freedom and the price was marriage. The one thing he’d planned to avoid for as long as possible.

      But Jack had left him without a choice. It was Jack’s way or the highway.

      Jonas pushed his chair back, tossed his linen napkin onto the table and leaned across to shake Preston’s hand. He ignored his grandfather, too angry with him to speak. He started to walk away but Jack’s voice followed him.

      “Well, what are you going to do?” he demanded.

      Jonas relished the note of uncertainty in his voice.

      He slowly turned and eyed his elderly relative, his smile cold. “I’ll guess you’ll find out in three months. You can wait until then.”

      * * *

      Katrina Morrison slid her hand beneath her hair and, discreetly, pushed her finger under the seam of her dress, moving the still attached price tag in the hope that it would stop scratching her skin. How she wished she was in the position to yank the tag off and be done with it. But Tess, her best friend, who happened to be the manager of The Hanger—a downtown Santa Barbara boutique selling designer dresses—would slap her silly if she did that. Tess still had to sell the dresses Kat had “borrowed.”

      God knew what Tess would do if she ripped the dress or spilled wine or food on it. Katrina would probably be tarred and feathered at dawn.

      Or, worse, she’d have to pay for the dress. And she didn’t have a thousand-plus dollars to spare. Even if she did have that sort of cash lying around, Kat doubted she’d spend it on a mid-thigh, sleeveless, pleated dress that was so understated it screamed “expensive.” But appearances, especially when you were the host at El Acantilado, the award-winning and flagship restaurant owned by America’s favorite chef and entrepreneur, Harrison Marshall, were everything. El Acantilado’s patrons expected a unique and expensive dining experience. Kat was the first person to welcome them into the restaurant, and her first impression had to be favorable. Hence the designer dress, expertly applied makeup, glossy lips and black suede three-inch heels.

      She was happiest in a pair of faded jeans and a T-shirt, her nearly waist-length hair in a ponytail or a braid and her face makeup-free, but this job paid the bills. If dressing up like a fashion model was what was required, she’d do it.

      Kat tapped her pen against her leather-bound reservations book and looked into the wood-and-steel restaurant to watch the waitstaff. The newest waiter, Fred, seemed stressed, his hand wobbling as he placed Harrison’s iconic roasted duck between the solid silver cutlery in front of Senator Cordell. Thank goodness he wasn’t serving Elana Marshall, Harrison’s daughter, who was sitting at the best table in the house with Jarrod Jones.

      Hmm, Elana wasn’t dining with her long-term boyfriend Thom. Jarrod’s wife, the feted Irish actress Finola, was also missing.

      God, Kat could make a fortune selling celebrity gossip to tabloid newspapers. They’d made her offers before, promised her anonymity, and she’d desperately needed the money.

      Kat sighed. Selling gossip would be an easy solution to her financial woes. Damn her integrity and self-respect.

      Kat smiled as Fred walked passed Elana’s table, his gaze sliding sideways. The waitstaff was expected to turn a blind eye, to not notice a damn thing, but Fred was young and a little starstruck. And, really, since Elana Marshall looked like the millions of bucks she was reputed to be worth in that barely there dress highlighting her cleavage, how could Fred not notice that impressive rack, that fabulous face and those pouty lips?

      Hadn’t Kat, when she’d first started as a waitress years ago, been equally impressed by the star power that lit up the room? She’d stuttered when she’d first spoken to Angel Morales, the hottest and most talented celebrity around. She’d blushed when the younger Windsor brother had thanked her, very nicely, for a wonderful dining experience. She’d nearly fainted when a table of Oscar nominees had left her a two-thousand-dollar tip.

      After serving so many wealthy and famous people, she was no longer easily impressed, and that was why she’d been promoted to the position of hostess a year or so ago. Harrison Marshall had personally promoted her, his decision based, he’d told her, on her popularity with his well-heeled clients. She was polite and personable, but she didn’t fawn or simper. His clients, Harrison had said, liked that. They, apparently, liked her.

      Kat looked down at her book and then at her watch. The Henleys were late, but then, they always were. Jonas Halstead and guest would be arriving within five minutes, and he was always on time.

      Kat idly wondered who Jonas would be with tonight. By her calculations, the blond pop sensation he’d been dating for the past three months had reached her sell-by date, and there would be another girl on his arm tonight. Jonas, the billionaire property developer specializing in hotels and casinos, was a repeat visitor to El Acantilado over the past year. He’d recently bought Cliff House and was renovating the iconic Santa Barbara hotel. Rumor had it that he’d out-negotiated Harrison Marshall